Logano and Penske Teammates Atop Cup Field In Atlanta

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 18 2023

Joey Logano is P1 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (File photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

HAMPTON, Ga. – Joey Logano sped to the pole on a cool and brisk Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway and will lead the field to green in Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400.

Logano will be flanked by Team Penske teammates Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney in the top three starting spots. It’s the first time in team history Penske cars will roll off 1-2-3 in a Cup race.

Ford swept the first top 8 positions in qualifying at the NASCAR Cup Series level for the first time since the Blue Oval brand accomplished the feat in 1965.

“I’m hoping (this speed for Ford) is transferable to the race,” Logano said. “Certain manufacturers made some changes with noses and what not. And it’s pretty obvious this place is in our wheelhouse.”

Logano, a Connecticut native, has fond memories of Atlanta, which he considers his second home. He is seeking his first Cup Series victory on the 1.5-mile oval.

“I lived up in one of those condos for five years,” said Logano, pointing to the condominiums overlooking Turn 4.

“And I raced Legends cars here for six years. There’s been races here that we’ve had the dominant race car and had issues happen. For me, it would be a dream to win at this race track.”


As drivers arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, they began surveying the new entry point to pit road.

Instead of diving off the banking in Turn 4 and making a hard left hand turn to enter pit road, drivers will now begin slowing on the backstretch as they approach the new entry lane, which stretches through Turns 3 and 4 on the apron of the track and leads them directly to pit road.

A miscue onto the new entry point, could result in losing two laps under green.

“They’ve moved it back halfway down the backstretch and no one really knows when to break,” said Harrison Burton, driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford Mustang.

 “I’ve practiced it some on the simulator and we don’t know if that’s going to be accurate. For me, it’s going to be a big challenge for sure.”


Burton will start deep in the field on Sunday in 33rd position. But the second-generation driver still has high hopes he can score the 100th all-time victory for the legendary Wood Brothers team during a race in which drafting will come into play.

“I feel really good about Sunday,” said Burton, son of retired NASCAR driver and current NASCAR on NBC commentator Jeff Burton. “This is one of those weekends when anything can happen.”


Christian Eckes turned a bold, late-race move to win Saturday’s Fr8 208 at AMS.
“The bottom didn’t really work all day, but we made that lane work to win,” said Eckes, who now has two career victories in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
He edged Nick Sanchez, John Hunter Nemechek, Bayley Currey and Matt DiBenedetto in the frantic two-lap dash to the checkered flag that featured two separate multi-track crashes during the final lap.
In Victory Lane, Eckes reflected on nearly not having a ride in 2023. But a deal came together at the last moment for him to drive the No. 19 McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Chevrolet, which was sponsored by Atlanta-based NAPA on Saturday.
“It’s been a long offseason and really, really stressful,” Eckes said. “I got lucky to be here with this team. These guys work 12 hours a day.”
Nemechek paced the field during much of the second half of the event, but received a challenge from the No. 51 of Jack Wood who catapulted into the lead with 26 laps remaining.
But Wood’s time at the front was short-lived following a bump draft in the corner from Nemechek gone awry.
“I apologize to him and am sorry to those guys,” Nemechek said. “I was trying to push him away and get cleared so we could race, but that’s part of speedway racing and that’s what they’ve turned Atlanta into.”
| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 18 2023
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